SB 326, sponsored by Senator Simonaire and introduced as an, “Emergency Bill”, is named the “Taxpayer Protection Act of 2014”. Its stated purpose is authorizing a local government to require elected representatives, who are convicted of or plead to knowingly or recklessly violating federal, state, or local law. The problem comes in the language in this bill.
(2) A LOCAL GOVERNMENT MAY REQUIRE AN ELECTED OFFICIAL TO REIMBURSE THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT FOR ANY COSTS ASSOCIATED WITH A LEGAL DEFENSE PROVIDED UNDER PARAGRAPH (1) OF THIS SUBSECTION IF THE ELECTED OFFICIAL:
(I) IS FOUND TO HAVE KNOWINGLY OR RECKLESSLY VIOLATED FEDERAL, STATE, OR LOCAL LAW;
(II) ADMITTED TO KNOWINGLY OR RECKLESSLY VIOLATING FEDERAL, STATE, OR LOCAL LAW; OR
(III) CONSENTS TO A SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT IN AN ACTION INVOLVING A KNOWING OR RECKLESS VIOLATION OF FEDERAL, STATE, OR LOCAL LAW.
Senator Simonaire is from Anne Arundel County, where the former County Executive, John Leopold (R), was found guilty of misconduct in office. The County Council (4-3 Republican to Democrat) withdrew legislation to oust the Executive; instead, they accepted his resignation. The legal tab for defense of a discrimination suit was over $21,000, for a $450/hr. lawyer, paid by the taxpayers of Anne Arundel County (a judge ruled Leopold could not be held personally liable). Ultimately, the taxpayers of Anne Arundel paid the plaintiff $110,000 (+ attorneys’ fees) to drop the lawsuit.
The central problem with this bill is that it allows politicians to choose the expedient course rather than the course that is in the interest of the People. The bill states the local politicians, “MAY” require an, “elected official” to reimburse the local government. Why should a government by and for the People, accept liability for a representative’s actions if they knowingly or recklessly violate federal, state, or local law?
The bill also addresses, “state elected official[s]” and says, in part,
(2) UNLESS THE STATE AGREES TO ASSUME LIABILITY, A STATE ELECTED OFFICIAL IS NOT IMMUNE….
Again, why should the State assume liability for a, “state officer” or, “state elected official” who is found to knowingly or recklessly violate federal, state, or local law (or consent to a settlement for a violation)? This same language is used for local governments.
In the Senate – Hearing 2/13 at 1:00 p.m.
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